Whether you’re headed home for the holidays or celebrating with a vacation, you will be traveling during one of the most chaotic times of the year. As we approach this season, it’s important to know how you can travel responsibly with affordability and ease in mind. Follow our eight top tips to have a fulfilling holiday trip.

1. Stay close to home

The holiday season brings a lot of time for relaxation as many people have time off work and can spend some much-needed time catching up with family and friends. When thinking about how you want to spend your holiday, think about what is most fulfilling to you. Do you value getting away from your daily routine? Do you wish to return to your childhood home? Are you interested in exploring a brand-new place?

If you want to mix up your routine and explore somewhere new, you may consider doing a stay-cation holiday anywhere from a couple minutes to a few hours from your home. There are always new treasures to explore in your community or surrounding communities, so perhaps spending your holiday season with friends, family, or solo exploring your own “backyard” might be fulfilling for you! Pro tip: this will also reduce travel emissions, allow you to have a more-affordable getaway, and not have to endure the stress of comparing flights and accommodation. 

2. Take public transportation when possible

For those of you residing in cities or more populated communities, this will come far easier to you than those living in rural communities. However, if you can access public transportation, take advantage of it! This can be trains, ride-share services, or buses. If friends or family live close by, consider carpooling to your destination.

Pro tip: If your destination is a city and you’ll be spending multiple days there, investigate multi-day public transportation passes. There are often discounts for children, families, veterans, or elderly members. This can be an affordable and environmentally friendly way to explore a new place without having to worry about parking in a city for multiple days.

People commuting by public transportation, trains, bikes, walking

© David Bebber 

3. Search for flights with the least emissions

If you can’t avoid flying this holiday season, you can book your flight with sustainability in mind. Some flight-booking platforms now have the option for you to see the airline emissions for each trip. When you’re looking at flight options, you can compare which airline and route will emit the least amount of CO2. This option will also share how that individual flight compares to the average emissions for that route, helping you to make an informed decision.

Pro tip: Flying first-class or business-class has a larger footprint. Since these seat options take up more physical space on the plane, they account for more of the emissions. When possible, fly economy to reduce your personal footprint.

4. Use an online mapping service to see how you can get to your destination most efficiently

Previously, online GPS services shared all different routes to get from destination to destination in the most time-efficient way. Now many of these services have enabled a CO2 emissions estimator in addition. When searching, you can see which mode of transportation will take the least amount of time and emit the least energy.

Pro tip: By searching for the most fuel-efficient route, you’ll also save money on gas. Typically, the routes that save on emissions, are ones that are shorter or allow you to drive without many stops and speed changes.

5. Seek out accommodation with sustainability certifications

If you plan to stay in a hotel, consider selecting one that has sustainability in mind. There are a variety of certifications that apply to hotels. Some booking platforms have features that automatically scan for hotels with eco-certifications and sustainability practices. This will give you a good overview to help get you started on your own research.

We recommend looking for hotels or accommodation that promote a range of sustainability indicators. By looking for environmental, social, and economic impacts of accommodations, you’ll be able to see the holistic understanding of sustainability that the accommodation has.

Pro tip: It is often challenging to find a hotel or accommodation that is 100% sustainable so focus on what your priorities and values are, and select your accommodation based off of that.

6. Support local businesses and local experiences

One of the most impactful things you can do as a responsible traveler is to support local businesses. Locals are the ones residing in the community and will be directly impacted by your actions as a visitor to their home. By frequenting local establishments, you are empowering community members to continue pursuing their work and livelihood.

Local businesses and experiences can look vastly different depending on where you go. A general rule of thumb that I follow is to ask locals what their favorite restaurants, shops, and attractions are. Pro tip: this will allow you to feel more embedded in the community and will further create a more positive relationship between locals and tourists. You might also get to experience ‘off-the-beaten-track’ places and not get swept up in overcrowded, tourist traps.

When planning your travel, consider staying in a bed and breakfast with a local family. This is a great way to support the family, the community, and get some insights into local culture and experiences.

Holiday Christmas Market, New York City, USA

7. Reduce plastic and waste during travels

Lastly, but certainly not least, be mindful of your waste when traveling. When packing for your trip, grab any reusable items that you can – water bottles, straws, bags, etc. Although this action can seem insignificant in the larger picture of sustainability and conservation, it’s important to do your part and to be respectful to the communities and landscapes you’ll be visiting.

“With a dump truck of plastic waste entering our oceans every minute, the environmental impacts to this important ecosystem are devastating,” says Erin Simon, head, Plastic Waste and Business at World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “From sea turtles to whales, plastic pollution is wreaking havoc on ocean life through ingestion, entanglement, and habitat loss due to pollution.”

Not just plastic, but also considering your food waste footprint. On holiday, we all may tend to want to try a little bit of everything, but you can do so in moderation and ensure little to nothing gets thrown out at the end of the meal.

Pro tip: If you have some time to further support the community during the holiday season, there is always a great need to help prepare meals in food kitchens, pack up boxes at food banks, or donate any leftover meals or canned goods to these establishments.

8. Give the gift of adventure

If sharing the gift of travel with close friends and family, be sure to choose an operator with a strong commitment to responsible and sustainable travel. Natural Habitat Adventures offers over 90 adventures across the globe that feature unique landscapes, wildlife, and experiences. For the trips, carbon credits can be purchased by each traveler. You’ll also be able to see firsthand the work that WWF does to support the mission of conserving nature and reducing the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.

Pro tip: Get a jump start on planning for your holiday trip next year! Whether you want to see polar bears in the polar bear capital of the world or jaguars in the Pantanal, Natural Habitat Adventures has the perfect trip for you.

Jaguar laying in a tree, Pantanal, Brazil

©Helder Brandão de Oliveira​